Monday, January 12, 2009

Ryan's Best of 2008: Part V

# 2: Batman - DC

Scripts: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Tony Daniel

Batman is the # 2 book of 2008 because Grant Morrison reminded us all how cool Batman could be in the most debated storyline of the year.

I've already broken down Batman: RIP in this blog, so it's tough to say much more about it without repeating myself. If you haven't read it yet, go back into our archives and look at December - I did a pretty thorough review of the series then.

The key here is that I was originally going to wait for the trade on this one. As soon as I read Batman # 676, I knew that simply wasn't an option. The idea of waiting on this while new material was sitting on the racks was intolerable.

I think most people who who found the ending anti-climactic simply didn't get it. Morrison is smarter than your average bear, and so are his books. This is a story that had me going back to previous issues hunting for clues and foreshadowing. I've probably read Batman # 681 eight or nine times now. Can you remember the last comic that had you going back for more?

# 1: Crossed - Avatar

Scripts: Garth Ennis
Pencils: Jacen Burrows

Crossed is the # 1 book for 2008 because it's the most powerful horror I've ever read, and the most important comic book currently on the stands.

What a revelation this book has been, and what a punch in the guts! I have a high tolerance for horror of all types, it takes a lot to get to me. I have a hard time getting through an issue of Crossed - it's that brutal.

Does that make it a great or even good comic book? No, it does not. Crossed is far more than sheer brutality, though. It's an unflinching look at the human condition, and we need that right now.

It deals with many of the same nihilistic concerns that Nolan's Dark Knight did, albeit with very different answers. Nolan's Batman movie denied the darkness of the human soul. Ennis's Crossed swallows it whole and then shows you the excrement.

We're early in the series (three issues into a planned 10 issue mini) and so it's impossible to tell exactly where we're headed. What's unique about the book to me so far is that the story remains grounded in the group of survivors.

Most stories of this type are about plucky, underrated, and skilled people who improbably fall right into the clues that lead to discovering the mystery of the Great Problem. Then they win and take down the monsters and stick to The Man. But this book isn't about figuring out how The Crossed were created. Most of the characters have given up those notions. In this story, the monster is us.

This book is about the nature of the human animal and what happens to them when it all goes bad. What hurts the most is how viable this world feels and how sympathetic the surviving characters are. It's a kind of psychological Kobayashi Maru, and I've never seen anything quite like it.

Some of you out there are tired of reading Ms. Marvel and bitch, moan, and cry about the fact that the only thing on the racks are sterilized superhero books. If you want a book outside the usual genre with the brass balls to dive into the darkest part of the human heart, you need to be on Crossed immediately.

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